Dar brothers bring exhibit to life with the use of AR

Thursday July 22 2021
Still illustrations by Ngaira

Still illustrations by Ngaira overlaid with augmented reality filters. They were exhibited at the ''Streets of Dar es Salaam'' exhibition at the Drum in Masaki. PHOTO | BEATRICE MATERU | NMG


Two brothers, Ngaira and Shaula Mandara have taken their creativity to a new level by using Augmented Reality (AR) to offer an immersive experience of their exhibition.

Their Streets of Dar es Salaam AR exhibition held in May at the Drum in Masaki, showed how art and technology can be used to turn inanimate pieces into living art.

Shalua is a software technician while Ngaira is an illustrator and they have combined their ideas to create a series of work titled the Streets of Dar es Salaam.

Ngaira is the visual storyteller and gets inspired by daily stuff and he also does the sketching.

“One day I was at Makumbusho bus stop and people were scrambling to enter dala dalas so I decided to capture that. I also get inspired by buildings and places around the city. Then I use art and animation to present visual stories,” said Ngaira.

The Streets of Dar es Salaam AR art exhibition is a collaboration between the brothers.

Still illustrations by Ngaira

Still illustrations by Ngaira overlaid with augmented reality filters. They were exhibited at the ''Streets of Dar es Salaam'' exhibition at the Drum in Masaki. PHOTO | BEATRICE MATERU | NMG

“We would communicate and update each other on where we were, and shared ideas on different things. Eventually we started combining our ideas and came up with a single project,” said Shalua.

Ngaira made several sketches of people and places of Dar es Salaam then posted them on his social media accounts.

“I posted two pictures; one of passengers on a boda boda and the other of passengers pushing and shoving to board a dala dala. I wrote a caption saying that I would do a series on streets of Dar es Salaam, of different scenarios and places and asked my followers what they would like to see,” said Ngaira.

The encouraging response piqued their interest to showcase the work in AR.

Shalua designed the AR Filter using Facebook AR Platform called Spark AR, because its free and readily available and anything done on it can be easily shared.

“We didn’t want to be just an exhibition where people come and view still paintings, we wanted something different. For the AR art exhibition using the magic of augmented reality we are able to immerse viewers into the art and make them experience the streets of Dar es Salaam in a more interactive way,” Shalua said.

The Streets of Dar es Salaam art exhibition had 17 illustrations, each with explanation notes.

The piece, Askari Monument, features the symbol of the city as the main attraction. Using a smartphone with an AR filter you can see an askari (policeman) move, put his gun down and wipe sweat off his brow with a handkerchief.

Others pieces include a fisherman in a boat; a dala dala with passengers standing outside; a person sweeping; a woman hawking bananas that she is carrying in a basin balanced on her head and people playing a board game.

“It took almost a year to accomplish the series, with tests and trials,” said Shalua.

Ngaira, who has been passionate about art since childhood, studied International Business Administration with a bias in Finance from the United States International University in Nairobi.

“I attended Hekima Waldorf School and we had art sessions inspired by the stories the teacher told us. My passion bloomed from there and I have kept creating art ever since,” said Ngaira.

Shalua, a software technician, is a graduate of Unique Academy at Upanga DSM in Software Engineering. Just like his brother, Shalua was also interested in drawing, comic strips and online games.

The Mandara brothers also produce branded Streets of Dar es Salaam merchandise with different illustrations of the day-to-day city life ranging from t-shirts, water bottles, mugs, phone covers, tote bags, laptop bags and baby onesies. “Our merchandise is available in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Iringa and Zanzibar,” said Ngaira.

Their exhibition can be viewed on their Facebook and Instagram pages.